`Pakistan Army chief knew of 1990 poll rigging`

Gen Mirza Aslam Beg denied his involvement in the disbursement of funds among political parties on the orders of Ghulam Ishaq Khan.

Islamabad: Plan to distribute money among politicians to influence the outcome of the 1990 general election in Pakistan was in full knowledge of the then Army chief Gen Mirza Aslam Beg, ex-ISI chief Asad Durrani has informed the country`s Supreme Court.

In a concise statement submitted to the apex court, Durrani said Beg was involved in issuing instructions for the distribution of the money and had overseen the actual disbursement of funds.

Durrani filed the statement in response to Beg`s recent affidavit that denied his involvement in the disbursement of funds among political parties on the orders of then president Ghulam Ishaq Khan.

Beg had claimed that the funds were kept in the account of the ISI and that Durrani alone was responsible for distributing the money.

Beg had further claimed that he was not aware of any misappropriation of funds and that the ISI was not under his command.

But Durrani said in his statement that he had received initial orders to organise the distribution of funds from Beg, although subsequent instructions were at times conveyed by Ijlal Haider Zaidi, a member of Ghulam Ishaq Khan`s election team.

"I kept the Army chief fully informed," Durrani said.

He pointed out that according to Beg`s affidavit dated February 23, 1997, the ISI had a political cell created by late premier Zulfikar Ali Bhutto.

Durrani said the ISI responded to multiple centres of power, including the President as the supreme commander of the armed forces, the three service chiefs and the chairman of the Joint Services Headquarters and the Prime Minister.

In practice, however, the Army chief wielded more power over the ISI than any of its other "bosses" because of his "extraordinary status in the national polity" and most of the spy agency`s senior officers were serving soldiers, Durrani said.

Durrani said all accounts of the funds doled out to politicians were maintained by officers of different Military Intelligence units and the amount was placed in temporary accounts.

After the disbursements were over, the balance was transferred to a special fund of the ISI. Since records were meticulously maintained, all
transactions could be accounted for, he said.

He contended that the decision to disburse funds through the ISI might well have been made by Ghulam Ishaq Khan who, having handpicked the caretaker government, was the de facto chief executive.

The operation was lawful and followed an established chain of command, he further contended.

Durrani said he believed that, as an army general, he had to take responsibility for his action.

"In this case I followed orders, being convinced that it was in the country`s best interest," he said.

When a three-judge bench headed by Chief Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry resumed hearing the case today, it directed the Attorney General to produce a copy of the 1975 notification issued by Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto to create a political cell in the ISI.

The bench later adjourned the matter till June 04.

The Supreme Court is currently hearing a petition filed in 1996 by former Air Force chief Asghar Khan against the distribution of funds by the ISI among politicians to prevent the victory of the Pakistan People`s Party in the 1990 polls.

Banker Yunus Habib has testified in the apex court that he arranged Rs 1.48 billion for the military, and about Rs 400 million was distributed among politicians linked to the Army-backed Islami Jamhoori Ittehad in a bid to prevent the PPP from coming to power.


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